Police Officers Arrested For Allegedly Abusing Children At Boot Camp
Four police officers were arrested this week after numerous children said they were abused while attending a boot camp program in San Luis Obispo County. South Gate Police Officers Edgar Gomez and Carlos Gomez-Marquez, Huntington Park Police Officer Patrick Nijland and Hunting Park Detective Marissa Larios were arrested earlier this week on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child, criminal battery and abuse under color of authority, KTLA reports. All are currently out on bail.
The camp, called Leadership Empowerment and Discipline (LEAD), is a 20-week program held at the California Army National Guard Military Base in San Luis Obispo called Camp San Luis Obispo. The program is meant to teach children and teens better behavior and discipline. Parents pay $400 for these kids to attend.
The alleged abused took place a week-long 'boot camp' between May 17 and 24, during which 15 of the 37 children who attended said they had been struck by officers, and that officers would step on their hands and backs while the kids were doing push-ups. Attorney Gregory Owen, who is representing 11 of the children, said that the officers took the children, who were all between 12 and 17 years old, into a dark room and would then grab them by the neck and shove them against a wall. Authorities said that witnesses corroborated the children's story, and that there were photos and videos that also seemed to support the children's allegations, the L.A. Times reports.
"Then they would strike them. They would beat them in the side, in the stomach, in the ribs, and in in the face," Owen said.
The children also claim that the officers told them not to tell anyone what had happened and that they would get hurt if they did.
A total of 37 children attended the camp.